“That’s awesome! I’m so glad it worked,” Chris Hardwick exclaimed at the end of this interview. During the month of December, the @midnight host and his staff promoted the hashtag #FollowerSanta. The writers would select one of the show’s followers on Twitter and ask viewers to follow them back. They inadvertently selected me while I was on assignment at a Star Wars marathon, so I thanked Hardwick for the good social media deed that — at the time — resulted in an uncomfortable number of notifications on my soon-to-be-silenced smartphone.
Then again, as the 44-year-old funnyman/Nerdist founder put it, sometimes the best things in life are quite uncomfortable. Hence Funcomfortable, Hardwick’s second stand-up special with Comedy Central, which premieres Saturday, April 30 at 10 p.m. ET. Four years have passed since his first televised outing, 2012’s Mandroid, but not because the comic decided to take a prolonged vacation. On the contrary, Hardwick performs regularly while doing just about everything else there is to do on television and the internet.
Yet the past few years have proven rather eventful for nerddom’s mascot. His father, professional bowler Billy Hardwick, passed away in 2013. Two years later, he got engaged to Lydia Hearst. All of this and more pops up in the incredibly personal new special, but as Hardwick explained it, he wouldn’t have it any other way. Not even Funcomfortable‘s unnerving opening sequence.
The opening montage looks like something out of a Rob Zombie film.
Oh yeah. Actually, it’s interesting that you say that because the intro for… There’s this kind of opening that a lot of shows have right now. These weird montages of surrealism. So I thought it’d be fun to do that for the special. Tonally, it previews what the set is about, but it also satirizes the fact that so many shows do that now. When we were designing it, the examples that I sent over were American Horror Story and True Detective. But ultimately, yeah, a lot of that is derivative from Rob’s House of 1,000 Corpses. You’re totally right. And I remember when True Blood came out, and I saw the opening, I realized they’d almost completely ripped off House of 1,000 Corpses. Someone obviously saw the film and thought, “Yeah just make that.” Since then, a lot of people have caught on and started doing that kind of opening.
I only realized about halfway through that you peppered it with images from your hour. Like the honey-eating man in a bear costume.
They were basically just Easter eggs from the special. Everything in the opening is something that happens in the hour. So if you just watch it, you’ll probably think it’s just a bunch of weird stuff. But if you watch it again after seeing the whole special, you’ll see everything — the male nurse, the pregnancy, the bear eating honey out of the butt. The first shot of it… You could really see that it was a butt, and the bear’s face was really in there. We didn’t think Comedy Central would be cool with that, so we had to just crop it out a little bit. There’s also a little baby picture of me in there that flashes really fast.
It’s very unnerving. Then again, the special has “uncomfortable” in the title.
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to feel. All the graphics and the album heart is supposed to make anyone who sees it feel that way. I’m talking about a lot of stuff that isn’t super comfortable for me to talk about in public, which is why I wanted to do it that way. It all came from a podcast I did with Mike Birbiglia. Mike said he went to a place that’s really uncomfortable whenever he writes, and I thought it was a great experiment, so I decided to try it. And that just became… In the midst of all that, my dad died, so that really became one of the most uncomfortable things in the world.
I love your dad’s mantra, “Any day you can take a shit is a good day.”
I appreciate that. If you… This is getting super granular and will probably bore people, but the set really does have an arc. The beginning is all about where babies come from. Even the first jizz joke, “All your moms have had jizz on them at least once.” That’s ultimately about conception and the creation of life. The middle part is about death. Then it comes back around to my upcoming marriage and the realization that I’m going to have kids at some point. It ends with me, hopefully, mashing up all my anxiety with this philosophy that my dad had, and that’s where it lands. It’s a full circle. Birth, life, death, new life and so on. And my dad’s words really do say what I wanted to say with the special.